By Jared Allen - 06/05/09 02:19 PM EDT
House Republicans on Friday reacted to Democratic claims that they leaked sensitive information from a closed Intelligence Committee hearing by using the same line of attack they’ve deployed on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): Prove it.
“First you have Speaker Pelosi accusing the CIA of misleading Congress all the time without providing any proof. Now other Democrats are following her lead and making equally false claims without any proof,” Jamal Ware, spokesman for House Intelligence Committee Republicans, said on Friday. “If they believe the classified substance of the meeting was revealed, they should prove it.”
Intelligence Committee Democrats on Thursday blasted Republicans on the panel for telling The Hill in on-the-record interviews that they came away from a closed-door subcommittee hearing on interrogations believing that controversial interrogation methods have prevented terrorist attacks.
“The hearing did address the enhanced interrogation techniques that have been much in the news lately,” Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.), a member of the Intelligence Oversight and Investigations subcommittee, said following the subcommittee hearing.
The top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (Mich.), said his conversations with members on the subcommittee led him to draw the same conclusion.
Democrats, including subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas), immediately accused Republicans of peddling information directly related to national security and violating the rules of the committee.
“My understanding is that’s a violation of the rules,” Schakowsky said. “It may be more than that.”
According to Intelligence Committee rule 12(a)(1): “Except as otherwise provided by these rules and the Rules of the House of Representatives, Members and Committee Staff shall not at any time, either during that person’s tenure as a Member of the Committee or as Committee Staff, or anytime thereafter, discuss or disclose, or cause to be discussed or disclosed … (B) Any information received by the Committee in executive session.”
Clause A of that rule prohibits the dissemination of “the classified substance of the work of the Committee.”
Intelligence Committee spokeswoman Courtney Littig said the committee was focused on Clause B, as the committee was in executive session.
Republicans stuck by their handling of the information presented during the closed-door hearing.
“The members maintained strict adherence to the rules,” Ware said. “As [Republican lawmakers said], they consciously chose their words to abide by the rules.”
“As the members made very clear,” added House Minority Leader John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) spokesman, Mike Steel, “they did not and would not reveal any classified information.”
Asked about the validity of the GOP claims that the session revealed the effectiveness of certain interrogation methods, Democrats said they could not say what was discussed in a closed-door Intelligence Committee hearing.
Republicans, believing that data on the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques are on their side, have launched a multifaceted offensive geared at pressuring Democrats into releasing classified information about those tactics, which could now include the content of Thursday’s subcommittee hearing.
And they have focused that campaign around Pelosi. After being questioned for weeks about whether she was told in 2003 that waterboarding was being used, Pelosi on May 14 accused the CIA of lying to Congress about the use of enhanced interrogations.
Republican leaders have demanded that Pelosi either apologize or back up her claims. Pelosi has stopped commenting on the interrogation issue altogether since her mid-May press conference. Her allies, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), have stood by her and maintained that the rules regarding classified briefings prevent her from saying anything further.
At press time, Pelosi’s office had not commented on any of the claims made by Republicans on Thursday’s closed hearing.